Fox News Suddenly Loves Illegal Immigrants

A secondary barrier that helps establish an enforcement zone for the U.S. Border Patrol runs parallel to the U.S.-Mexico border fence in San Diego. Photograph by Sam Hodgson/Bloomberg

Since the election, there’s been a noticeable change in how Fox News has been covering the delicate issue of illegal immigration. It started with Sean Hannity. On his radio program on Nov. 8, Hannity told listeners that he now supports a path to citizenship for some people living in the U.S. illegally. “We’ve got to get rid of the immigration issue altogether,” Hannity said. “You control the border first. You create a pathway for those people that are here; you don’t say you’ve got to go. And that is a position I’ve evolved on.”

If the “I’ve evolved” language sounds familiar, it’s because that’s what President Obama said when he told the public in May that he’d changed his mind and was now supporting gay marriage. “I’ve evolved” is the way people in Washington signal that they realize they’re out of touch and are now trying to lead from behind.

For Hannity it’s a dramatic about-face. During the 2012 primary election, the GOP was the party of “self-deportation,” a term Mitt Romney coined. Romney was drawing on earlier comments by Hannity, who has called deportation the only solution for the 11 million-plus people living in the country illegally. Hannity described the Dream Act, which offers an opportunity of citizenship to young people who came to the U.S. before they were 16, finished high school, and have no criminal record, “an amnesty nightmare.” In his view at the time, even those illegal immigrants who served in the military didn’t deserve citizenship rights.

The day after Hannity announced his change of heart, Fox ran this news segment:

The following week, Fox provided extensive and generally positive coverage of Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s speech at the Washington Ideas Forum. Rubio appealed to his party to come up with a sensible plan for the illegal aliens living in the U.S., saying, “It’s really hard to get people to listen to you on economic growth, on tax rates, on health care if they think you want to deport your grandmother.”

Appearing on Fox on Sunday, Arizona Senator John McCain added to the chorus. He called on the GOP to heed the lessons of the election, in which minorities provided the margin of victory for Obama in key states. “I think we have to have a bigger tent,” McCain said. “Obviously, we have to do immigration reform.”

McCain has a keen interest in keeping the discussion alive: Back in 2007, he and Senator Ted Kennedy brought an immigration-reform package to Congress. That bill, which was pushed by President George W. Bush and included a path to citizenship, was derailed in part by talking heads such as Hannity. Any attempts by McCain & Co. to get traction for a renewed effort at immigration reform would benefit from a friendly reception on Fox News. It looks like they’ve got it.

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